As the clock winds down on 2016, it's customary for us scribes to take a thoughtful look back at the year that was and assess the highs and lows and lessons learned. Well, screw that. Twenty sixteen was a Dumpster fire for the ages, and I will be glad to see it go.
Things got off to a bad start when David Bowie died in January, and it pretty much went downhill from there. Sure, there were some high points (give me a minute, um . . . in May, Portugal powered itself for four days in a row with renewable energy, and the Dungeness crab season opened after a bad 2015, and . . . lots of cute puppies were born), but the unfathomably awful presidential election and obliteration of basic standards of decency that culminated in the election (thanks, Vladimir) of a spectacularly unqualified and despicable human being was the story of 2016.
So instead of looking back—in anger and regret and nausea—we look forward, and are cheered by the good work and everyday forms of resistance we see here in the North Bay and statewide.
If there's a silver lining to the orange menace that looms over the land, it's the determination to persevere and stand strong in the face of what may come. As we enter the Trump era, we have reason for cautious optimism. See you on the other side.—Stett Holbrook
THE FIGHT FOR $15
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a phased-in increase to the California minimum wage that will be fully implemented by 2022 and ramp the state wage to $15 an hour. Marty Bennett of North Bay Jobs with Justice says it's a good start, a big victory at the state level, and his organization is planning to keep the pressure on so that by the time 2022 rolls around the state will already have enacted a $15 wage floor through local efforts. The bottom-up push is exactly the model that's led to numerous states and municipalities raising their minimum wages, even as the federal minimum wage stagnates at the sub-poverty rate of $7.25 an hour.
It's not going to be an easy fight. The incoming president said throughout his campaign that wages are too high. He said a lot of things, so there's that. But Bennett says the fight will stay local and that the localities will serve to push public policy in the right direction at higher levels of governance.
"We want to be moving local policy that will raise the wage floor here and that will continue to ripple up," Bennett says.
His organization has been looking at the work done by a similar group to Jobs with Justice in Santa Clara County that led San Jose to update its own phased-in minimum wage to the $15 mark. Bennett says as San Jose goes, so goes other municipalities in that county—and a dozen already followed suit after San Jose's announcement.
Bennett hopes to see that effort replicated at the city level in Santa Rosa, and notes the popularity of the Fight for $15 movement, even in the face of a fight against a bunch of kleptocrats taking over the country.—Tom Gogola
Earlier this month, State Sen. President Pro Tempore Kevin de León introduced his California Values act, a throwdown at Trump grounded in empathy, decency, reason and facts. Naturally the alt-right enablers in California didn't like it much, given de León's emphasis on immigration and laying off the get-out cruelty at the heart of the Trump regime. de León's SB 54 sets out to "ice out ICE," referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or the Trump Deportation Force, depending on your level of cynicism about such things. Other local politicians have offered their own more direct push-back to Trump; U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman offered his colleagues a "Hey, There's Only One Freaking President at a Time" bill to highlight that Trump, despite what those who elected him might want to believe, is not president until Jan. 20.
Huffman previously offered a bill that set tax-disclosure rules for any future presidential candidate who decides to lie about how he'll he release those taxes but never does. Back in Sacramento, State Sen. Mike McGuire just this week offered a close-to-home tag-team to Huffman in a bill he co-sponsored that would compel federal tax disclosure on any presidential candidate who wants to be on the ballot in California.—T.G.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The Republican Party's zeal to abolish the Affordable Care Act is among the more gruesomely inhumane GOP gestures this side of eliminating Medicare and forcing Americans to recite Ayn Rand maxims under penalty of a death panel established by House Grim Reaper Paul Ryan. The old-time expression for this sort of hyper-aggressive posturing in pursuit of the death of the meek (who shall not, under any circumstance, inherit the world if Donald Trump has anything to do with it) used to fall under the generalized rubric of "social Darwinism," where might makes right and only the strong survive (it helps if they are billionaires).
The problem with the social Darwinist construct is that half of these would-be Obamacare killers don't believe in evolution in the first place. Hell, the upcoming vice president doesn't even believe in dinosaurs. What is to be done? Well, defend the flawed, but good-faith Obamacare, for one thing, despite the fact that it didn't usher in the progressive dream of a single-payer system.
Organizing for America is a post-Obama progressive group with a sturdy, activist presence in the North Bay. The group had pledged to refrain from making any noise about the upcoming administration until after Jan. 20, but given Trump's promises to "repeal and replace" Obamacare on day one, OFA has taken off the gloves for the fight in the hopes of sandbagging that pledge.
Congressional Republicans, led by California's Kevin McCarthy, have vowed to issue a repeal bill on Jan. 3 and put it on Trump's desk immediately. So instead of waiting for Trump to take office, OFA announced this week that it had launched an aggressive pushback campaign, in conjunction with health-advocacy groups from around the state. They've started to call states and districts where there are vulnerable Republicans to push the point that repeal will have immediate negative impacts on vulnerable constituents who have come to rely on Obamacare's many benefits to keep them from, you know, dying.
Organizing for America isn't waiting for the body count to pile up or for the alt-right to show up en masse at the nearest emergency room with bloody Gadsden flag tourniquets wrapped around their self-inflicted wounds, flying triumphantly over their dumb and self-defeating obsession with destroying Obamacare.—T.G.